If you are a meat lover, please dont tune out yet. Just because you love your meat doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a good, clean, vegan dish. Sometimes, even the sturdiest of systems needs a reset. And for those occasions, or to serve to your vegetarian and vegan friends, I have just the dish: Vegan “meatballs” with spicy roasted eggplants dip. It’s to die for.
OK, maybe that was a poor choice of words.
After two weeks traveling, and two more weeks to be back home, I have subjected my digestive system to abuses that it rarely takes kindly. We all do that when we travel. For the last two days I’ve had to give it a break, I would like to get back home in one piece.
One thing you’ll need to know if are coming to Denmark is that this is a cuisine that can be quite heavy on one’s system, especially to those of us who are not used to eating a lot of dairy and animal fat.
Cheese is big in Europe, we all know that. But Northern Europeans, especially Scandinavians, are the world’s largest population of lactose-tolerant people (it’s ironic that its actually lactose intolerant people who make up the vast majority of humanity). Dairy is a huge part of the Danish diet. And why not? They can digest dairy past weaning and into old age.
Since I entered my 30s I have been mildly to moderately lactose-intolerant. I love cheese, and I can tolerate a bit, a bit more if I take it with lactase pills. But at some point I pass my body’s ability to tolerate dairy.
I can very easily reach this point by 11 AM here. And I did.
I’ll spare you the details. You can thank me now.
Luckily we are not talking Viking-times winter here, there are vegetables aplenty in today’s Denmark. So back to my beloved veggies, at least for a while.
So, give these delicious balls a try, they are tasty, crunchy, filling, and the dip is to die for.
Maybe I should stop using that expression.
Vegan “Meatballs” with Spicy Roasted Eggplant Dip Recipe
For the balls
- 3 slices of whole-wheat bread
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- 1 small white onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 sprigs of parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 cups of chickpeas , boiled soft
- 1 cup of lentils , boiled soft
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
For the dip
- 1 large eggplant (6" or 13 cm aprox), or equivalent
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 small red onion , chopped
- 1 bell pepper , chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes , chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic , sliced
- A pinch of nutmeg (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon of salt , or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper , or to taste
- 1 hot pepper of your preference
For the balls
- Pulse the bread in the food processor until it has the texture of coarse sugar. Reserve.
- Mix bell pepper, onion, garlic, parsley, pepper and salt and pulse in the food processor until you obtain a coarse paste. Reserve.
- Pulse the chickpeas in the food processor just long enough to break them into smaller pieces (a quarter of their original size).
- Mix chickpeas, lentils, breadcrumbs and seasoning paste from step 2. Mix well. Taste and add salt to taste if you find it necessary.
- Make the paste into balls of about 1 1/2" in diameter. Reserve.
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan.
- Pan fry balls long enough to turn brown on the outside. Rest on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
For the dip
- Put the eggplants directly on the fire in your stove. When the side on the fire has blackened turn until the whole eggplant has turned black.
- Immediately soak in cold water. Using a spoon, remove and discard the peel.
- Heat oil over low heat in a skillet or pan. Cook and stir the onions until they turn translucent.
- Stir in bell pepper, tomatoes and garlic. Cook and stir for a minute.
- Add the eggplants, nutmeg and cilantro and stir until the cilantro wilts. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature
- Season with pepper and salt to taste.
- Place in a food processor. Add hot pepper to taste.
- Serve balls with the dip.